England come to EURO 2020 led by the most sought-after Fantasy asset in goal-machine Harry Kane (€11.5m) but his popularity should not detract from unprecedented levels of depth elsewhere in the squad.
At the start of the century, England’s biggest concern was finding a way to get some of the Premier League’s most talismanic figures to gel together while Fabio Capello and Roy Hodgson’s respective tenures occurred during the comparative dearth of domestic talent playing at the top level.
But the days of an England manager forced into picking fringe players are over. For perhaps the first time in history, the Three Lions can boast a collection of astute defensive midfielders and in-form left-footers at the same time and several key players are captains at their respective clubs, although they seem to bear less of a club-fuelled grudge against each other than some of the Golden Generation did, thanks to Gareth Southgate’s man management.
In fact, his biggest concern has largely been who not to select for England, with considerable depth in a number of positions thanks to a healthy dose of young players progressing to the senior team. In 2017, England won the Under-17 and Under-20 World Cups as well as the EURO Under-19s and the senior team now comes to EURO 2020 with Jadon Sancho (€9.5m), Phil Foden (€8.0m), Reece James (€5.0m) and Mason Mount (€7.0m) as very capable graduates from those various squads.
The Three Lions have only ever won one knockout game in the history of this competition; even then, it was on penalties and England were hosts. Well, channelling a second coming of the spirit of EURO 96 is hardly out of the question this summer considering England play all three of their group stage matches at Wembley, which should lend them a significant home advantage.
That said, all of the above does throw something new into the mix that was not present during the famous 2018 World Cup campaign: pressure. A lot of that rides on Southgate more than the players considering his inevitable need to leave some big names on the bench, perhaps to the ire of some supporters, but any of his predecessors would have taken that hand without a second thought.
In partnership with UEFA, we continue our series of EURO 2020 articles by examining England in detail to see if any of their players can compete for a place in your Fantasy squads.
ROAD TO QUALIFICATION
ENGLAND’S EURO 2020 QUALIFICATION RECORD
|Played||Won||Drawn||Lost||Goals for||Goals against||Clean sheets|
It is hard to say England qualified for EURO 2020 with anything other than style, winning seven of their eight matches and, across the whole campaign, only once scoring fewer than four goals in a game.
In the whole of Europe, only Belgium (40) found the net more often in qualifying while Italy matched their total of 37 goals; but both of those nations played in six-team groups, meaning England scored the most of any team that played eight matches.
The talismanic Kane was responsible for 12 of those, his total the most of any player during qualification, fresh off the back of becoming the first Englishman to win the Golden Boot at a World Cup since Gary Lineker in 1986.
Virtual ever-present Raheem Sterling (€9.5m) contributed eight, the second-most in the team and was the top assister with a total of six. That said, Kane preceded his impressive 2020/21 Premier League campaign by also playing a creative role for his country, producing five assists in eight qualifying matches, bringing his attacking-return tally to an impressive 17.
After reaching the semi-finals of the World Cup with a 3-5-2 formation, England have alternated between a 4-3-3 and 3-4-3 system since, a move triggered by a defensive lapse midway through qualifying that saw Kosovo score three times at Wembley and the Three Lions slip to a surprise 2-1 defeat in the Czech Republic.
ENGLAND’S MATCHES IN 2020 AND 2021
|Played||Won||Drawn||Lost||Goals for||Goals against||Clean sheets|
Since then, England truly have become something of a results and clean sheet machine. In 12 matches played across 2020/21, Southgate’s men won nine times, scored 23 goals, conceded just five and kept an impressive eight clean sheets. Very few teams arrive at EURO 2020 in that sort of form, hence the added pressure that simply was not there in 2018.
The only chink in that otherwise impressive armour is, of course the defeats which were, predictably, against bigger nations; the usual problem for England. Both of them came in the most recent Nations League campaign as Denmark won 1-0 at Wembley and Belgium ran out 2-0 victors in November. That said, it must not be forgotten the Three Lions did beat the Red Devils 2-1 in the reverse fixture (at EURO 2020 venue Wembley Stadium).
4-3-3 appears to have taken over as Southgate’s preferred formation from the start of 2021, which has seen England concede just one goal in their last 450 minutes of international football, although the last 90 of those were played in a 4-2-3-1 shape against Austria on Wednesday.
Such a switch highlights one other key element of Southgate’s management style. Considering how he handled the pressure of edging out senior figures Wayne Rooney and Joe Hart at the start of his tenure, persisted building a team around Mount despite fan clamour for Jack Grealish (€7.5m) and even went as far as to leave Trent Alexander-Arnold (€6.5m) out of March’s World Cup qualifiers, the former Middlesbrough boss is nothing if not a pragmatist.
Even possessing a squad filled with attacking talent, this is a many who is prepared to adjust his tactics to the opposition, to win ugly if required or put on a show, sometimes wavering between the two in one match.
“In terms of formations, we have to be adaptable. We talk about tactical systems, but during the game players have to adapt and adjust. You can write the formation down at the start of the game, but there aren’t many moments within the game when the players are actually in those positions. The game is so fluid and players have got to make sure they make good decisions.” – Gareth Southgate
- Most starts: Harry Kane, Harry Maguire (both 8), Jordan Pickford, Raheem Sterling (both 7), Ben Chilwell, Jordan Henderson, Michael Keane, Declan Rice (all 5).
- Most goals: Harry Kane (12), Raheem Sterling (8), Ross Barkley (4), Marcus Rashford (3)
- Most assists: Raheem Sterling (6), Harry Kane (5), Ross Barkley, Ben Chilwell (both 3)
- Goals scored: 37
- Goals conceded: 6
- Clean sheets: 5
THE KEY TARGETS
There is no England player more worthy of EURO 2020 Fantasy inclusion than captain and leader Kane. When he went to France five years ago, the Spurs forward had five goals in 12 caps. 42 international appearances later, he has added 29 Three Lions strikes to his account, 0.7 per match and potentially en route to break Rooney’s all-time scoring record if he keeps up the pace.
Kane also arrives at EURO 2020 on the back of arguably his best-ever Premier League campaign, winning the division’s Golden Boot award for the third time in six seasons. But some of that assist potential he showed with England during qualification has been borne out for Spurs this year too as he provided 14 Fantasy assists, achieved his best-ever FPL score of 242 points and finished 2020/21 with both the Golden Boot and Playmaker of the Season award in the Premier League.
“Harry’s always had that capability and the technique to link the play. He’s probably as good a forward passer as we’ve got in our squad. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s a part of his game that we weren’t aware of. It shows what an outstanding all-round player he is.” – Gareth Southgate
As the captain, Kane is as nailed-on as you’re going to get in this England team, considering he started all eight qualification matches. With Croatia’s questionable defence the first task at hand for he premium forward in Matchday 1, he is, without a doubt, a serious captain candidate.
Whether fellow qualification stalwart Sterling can be relied upon remains to be seen though. Even though he was the second-most effective asset during that phase of the competition, and has scored 12 of his 14 international goals since his goalless World Cup campaign, the Manchester City midfielder has endured a tough club campaign.
His total of 10 league goals and nine assists was his lowest return since 2015/16 in a season characterised more by high-profile misses than anything else. Sterling’s England place has waxed and waned over the last 18 months too. He has started only five of the last 12, although three of those were from the last four.
Still, Sterling faces stiffer competition for his place these days with Grealish, Sancho, Marcus Rashford (€9.5m) and Foden all in the conversation to start either side of Kane when Croatia come to Wembley on Sunday, June 13. In fact, one of those selection uproars mentioned above, could happen if Sterling were to feature ahead of his talented Manchester City colleague Foden.
The 21-year-old starred whenever he was on the pitch for the Citizens this season, coming away with 17 FPL involvements from 1,607 Premier League minutes, one every 94.5, compared to one every 133.4 for Sterling. He also has two goals and two assists in his first six England caps. If Foden can nail down a place in this Three Lions team, then an €8.0m price-tag is certainly worth considering, especially with the opposition on offer in Group D.
But someone who is more likely to start every group-stage match, and still deliver while doing it, is Mount and, conveniently, he is a whole €1.0m cheaper in UEFA’s game, priced at €7.0m. The Chelsea man has become one of Southgate’s preferred men in midfield and already has four goals and an assist in his first 16 caps.
Finally, after a checkered 18-month spell, Jordan Pickford (€5.5m) has shaken off any suggestions that he is not England’s number-one goalkeeper with an impressive shot-stopping finish to his 2020/21 Everton campaign; even if he is still capable of the odd howler. Recent experiments with the (now injured) Nick Pope demonstrated Pickford is a superior option in the distribution department and, with that flourish of clean sheets across 2020/21 for England, he is perhaps the most likely to capitalise should it continue this summer considering competition elsewhere in the defence.
THE LONG SHOTS
While very few doubt the attacking talent on offer among England’s players this summer, predicting which of them will get the nod alongside Kane is a tough task, especially with pragmatist Southgate at the wheel.
Over the last two seasons, Sancho has 25 Bundesliga goals and 27 assists for Borussia Dortmund but has taken a little longer to hit that sort of form for the Three Lions with three goals in 18 caps. Meanwhile, Rashford has previously been a reliable England starter and Grealish is pushing for a berth on the left-hand side of the attack with some recent impressive displays on the international scene.
But full-back is where we discover the most competition for places ahead of EURO 2020, even with Alexander-Arnold ruled out of the tournament. James, Kyle Walker (€5.5m) or the set-piece-taking Kieran Trippier (€5.0m) could start there against Croatia, each one coming into the tournament with silverware to their names (Champions League, Premier League and La Liga respectively).
Former Spurs defender Trippier could even cover the left-hand side, just as he did against Austria, although we cannot forget how impressive Ben Chilwell (€6.0m) and Luke Shaw (€6.0m) have been this season, so Southgate has some tough decisions ahead of him this department.
John Stones (€5.5m) is favourite to start against Croatia even though his arrival in the England camp was delayed by his Champions League final involvement. That is, in part, due to the fact that Harry Maguire (€5.5m) is an injury doubt for the first game with Conor Coady (€4.5m) and Tyrone Mings (€4.5m) both given runout against Austria and both could be used if Southgate fancies a back-three.
Maguire’s potential absence for the early stages of the tournament could pose a threat to England’s clean sheet potential, especially with Jordan Henderson (€6.0m) going without a competitive start since February. That said, Declan Rice (€5.5m) and Jude Bellingham (€6.0m) are both available to protect the back-four and in good form while Kalvin Phillips (€5.0m) is also an option.
FanTeam Price Corner
Kane is even costlier in FanTeam compared to UEFA’s version of the game. The England forward is the most expensive asset, priced at €13.5m with Sterling not far behind at €12.0m.
Rashford and Sancho are also pricy options, at €11.0m and €10.0m respectively.
Sam Johnstone (€5.5m) is the cheapest available member of Southgate’s squad on FanTeam with Coady, James, Stones and Phillips all tying for second-cheapest on €6.0m.